Conference ANN: Unlearning Cold War Narratives: Toward Alternative Understandings of the Cold War World, National University of Singapore, May 27-28, 2016

Hajimu Masuda Announcement
Subject Fields
Social History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, World History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies

Unlearning Cold War Narratives: Toward Alternative Understandings of the Cold War World

May 27-28, 2016
National University of Singapore
Organized by Masuda Hajimu

What was the Cold War? A simple definition might be: a 20th century international confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, which spread from Europe to Asia, Africa, and Latin America, eventually dividing the world into two camps. The key players in this global conflict are generally identified as a number of high-ranking policymakers, including Harry S. Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. We know this story, of course. Such a common narrative, however, does not help us to understand the multifaceted nature of the conflict, nor does it help us to think about its meanings for our world today. A quarter century has passed since the so-called end of the Cold War. It is time to change our ways of thinking about the Cold War.

To this end, our workshop, which will be held at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on 27-28 May 2016, aims at exploring new ways of thinking about the Cold War. We have invited contributions that will challenge the standard narrative by problematizing the imagined and constructed nature of the conflict. Some key questions we are going to explore are: How did various local situations contribute to the making and maintenance of the Cold War? Why did millions of people worldwide believe in the “reality” of the global Cold War? In what way did local people utilize, or even take advantage of Cold War narratives? Finally, what was the Cold War, and how can we reconsider and reconceptualize it?

In short, what we will attempt to do is problematize Cold War imaginings, shedding light on diverse social conflicts, culture wars, and historical struggles at home that were often concealed beneath the global Cold War mantle. In doing so, we hope to shed light on locally specific realities and everyday politics of “Cold War” confrontations, fostering discussions that will question the standard historical narrative that prioritizes the US-USSR conflict as the most important current in the history of the second half of the twentieth century. General themes for the workshop will include:

  • Ordinary people’s “Cold War”: Politics of everyday life and everyday conflicts in the name of global confrontation.
  • Localized “Cold War”: Issues of nation building, social wars, and ethnic conflicts.
  • Historical continuities and local realities: The many struggles in Latin America.
  • Decolonization and domestic politics in Africa and Southeast Asia.
  • Cold War popular cultures: Similarity, simultaneity, and local translation.
  • Reconceptualizing the Cold War: Issues concerning nature, agency, periodization, and implications.

Through this workshop, we hope to develop scholarly dialogues on current and future studies of the Cold War. We plan to compile an anthology based on selected workshop presentations.



Friday, 27 May 2016
Venue: NUS AS7-06-42 Seminar Room

10:30 am               Registration

10:45 am               Welcoming Remarks: Brian Farrell (National University of Singapore)

11:00-12:30 pm     Session 1: Re-conceptualizing the Cold War

Masuda Hajimu (National University of Singapore): Opening Remarks: “The Cold War as Social Mechanism: Why Do We ‘Unlearn’ Cold War Narratives, and What Are the Aims and Prospects?”

John Munro (St. Mary's University): “The Early Cold War Conjuncture as Racial Capitalism and Settler Colonialism”

Victoria Vasilenko (Belgorod National Research University): "Contemporary Russian Historiography of the Cold War: Is There Room for Reassessment?"

Discussant: David Engerman (Brandies University)

12:30-2:00 pm      Lunch

2:00-3:30 pm        Session 2: Decolonization and Domestic Politics

Poppy Cullen (Cambridge University): "'Playing Cold War Politics': The Multiple Uses of the Cold War in the Anglo-Kenyan Relationship"

Gary Baines (Rhodes University): “Rethinking the Contours of Cold War History in Southern Africa”

Colleen Wood (University of Maryland): "Globalizing Huklandia: Counterinsurgency, Decolonization and Anti-Communist Geographies"

                                     Discussant: Heonik Kwon (University of Cambridge)

3:30-4:00 pm        Coffee Break

4:00-5:30 pm        Session 3: Local Realties and Historical Continuity

Sidnei J. Munhoz (Universidade Estadual de Maringá): "Political and Social Conflicts in Brazil at the Onset of the Cold War"

Vanni Pettinà (El Colegio de México): "México and the Third World (1958-1976): Reconnecting the Western Hemisphere to the Global Cold War"

Fernando Purcell (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile): "Peace Corps, Community Development and Local Realities during the Cold War in South America, 1960s"

Magdalena López (University of Buenos Aires): "The 'Anticommunist' Paraguay: A Revision of Stroessner’s Dictatorship, 1954-1989"

             Discussant: Alan L. McPherson (University of Oklahoma)

6:00 pm                 Dinner


Saturday, 28 May 2016
Venue: NUS Utown Education Resource Centre Seminar Room 3

8:45-10:15 am      Session 4: Localized "Cold War"

Hyung-Wook Kim (University of California Los Angeles): "Localized Cold War and Its Derivatives in Korea"

Sinae Hyun (Nanyang Technological University): "'Others Within' during the Cold War: Counterinsurgent Nation Building by the Thai Border Patrol Police"

Edgar Elbakyan (Yerevan State University): "Re-Assessing the Term 'Cold War Conflicts': The Case of the Conflict around South Azerbaijan"

Discussant: S.R. Joey Long (National University of Singapore)

10:15-10:30 am     Coffee Break

10:30-12:00 pm     Session 5: Ordinary People's "Cold War"

Chen Song-Chuan (Nanyang Technological University): “Cold War Child: Economic Lives under Militarisation on the Frontier Islands Matsu” 

Chien-Wen Kung (Columbia University): "Practicing Anticommunism: Elites, Criminals, and Ideological Accommodation in Philippine-Chinese Society, 1948-1952"

David Mills (Minnesota West Community College): "Cold War in a Cold Land: Rhetoric Works Both Ways Between People and Governments"

Discussant: Paul Steege (Villanova University)

12:00-1:30 pm       Lunch

1:30-3:00 pm         Session 6: Cold War Popular Culture

Dean Vuletic (University of Vienna): "Competition and Cooperation in Cold War Popular Culture: The Eurovision and Intervision Song Contests"

Xu Lanjun (National University of Singapore): “The Southern Film Corporation, Chinese Opera Films and the PRC’s Cultural Propaganda in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, 1950s-1960s”

Xiaojue Wang (Rutgers University): "Radio on Screen: Cold War Hong Kong Films"

                                     Discussant: Petrus Liu (Yale-NUS College)

3:00-3:15 pm         Coffee Break

3:15-4:45 pm         Session 7: Roundtable

David Engerman (Brandies University)
Heonik Kwon (University of Cambridge)
Petrus Liu (Yale-NUS College)
Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu (Rice University)
Paul Steege (Villanova University)
Moderator: Masuda Hajimu (National University of Singapore)

5:30 pm                  Dinner


Presenters (Alphabetical)

Gary Baines (Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa)
Chen Song-Chuan (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Chien-Wen Kung (Columbia University, New York, NY, US)
Poppy Cullen (Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK)
Edgar Elbakyan (Yerevan State University, Yerevan, Armenia)
Sinae Hyun (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Hyung-Wook Kim (UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, US)
Xu Lanjun (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
S.R. Joey Long (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Magdalena López (University of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Masuda Hajimu (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
David Mills (Minnesota West Community College, Worthington, MN, US)
Sidnei J. Munhoz (Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Maringá, Brazil)
John Munro (St. Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)
Vanni Pettinà (El Colegio de México, Mexico City, Mexico)
Fernando Purcell (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile)
Victoria Vasilenko (Belgorod National Research University, Belgorod, Russia)
Dean Vuletic (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria)
Xiaojue Wang (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, US)
Colleen Wood (University of Maryland, College Park, MD, US)

Discussants (Alphabetical)

David Engerman (Brandies University, Waltham, MA, US)
Heonik Kwon (University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Petrus Liu (Yale-NUS College, Singapore)
Alan L. McPherson (University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, US)
Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu (Rice University, Houston, TX, US)
Paul Steege (Villanova University, Villanova, PA, US)


The workshop is open to the public, but advance registration is required. For further information, please contact the organizer at:

Workshop Website

For participants’ bios, paper abstracts, and additional information, please visit the workshop website at:

Contact Information

Masuda Hajimu, Ph.D.
Department of History
National University of Singapore
Singapore 117570

Contact Email